ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Constitutional Geographies and Cartographies of Impunity

Human Rights and Adivasis/Tribes in Contemporary India

The right to liberty for Adivasi communities is expressed in terms of territoriality--homelands that could be mobile or fixed, which confer a particular identity on its people, enabling distinct livelihood practices. Relations of land have been at the core of the Adivasi engagement with the law and the Constitution--both in the case of the peasant and non-peasant communities-- engagements that have signalled major victories through taking struggles into courts of law. This paper explores the fields of constitutionalism and human rights with specific reference to tribes/Adivasis in India. In doing this, the attempt has been to trace some connections that emerge from collective engagements with the Constitution and law with respect to Adivasi rights in India. Popular sovereignty has given voice to practices of sustainability, environmental protection, the nurturing of ecological systems, traditional knowledge systems and the indispensable right "to stay put"--to refuse to move.

I am grateful to Ganesh Devy and Geoffrey V Davis for the invitation to think through the ideas presented in this paper for the forthcoming “Key Concepts in Indigenous Studies” series of which they are the editors.

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